I am the owner of a small wholesale coffee roasting company that is about 18 months old. I have about 16 small wholesale clients but I am having a hard time getting established coffee shops to consider brewing and selling my coffee. When I wrote my business plan I knew that a couple of good coffee shops would provide a solid base for my business. It seems that bigger roasters have some kind of brainwashing power over coffee shop owners to keep them loyal and never consider any other roasters, even for small quantities.

I know I offer dynamite personal service, have exceptionally sourced and roasted coffee and I know the coffee industry.

Does anyone have any ideas of how the little guy can do battle with the big roasters? I want to learn!

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It's really about niche marketing, small overhead, and a pricing structure that's in line with your quality. In short - source better, roast better, charge more... and be efficient! Sometimes it's difficult finding operators who care enough to pay for something spectacular, or to adhere to quality principles and guidelines you have in place. I'm sure there are many small roasters with much more experience that will echo much of what I've said. Keep at it. It will pay off.
Project 16 accounts per 18 month period over the next 10 years. The question isn't "how can I grow more", but rather "how can you keep up with that much growth".
Small piece, big pie. Be totally aware of your market share. Coffee one of the largest traded commodities, second only to oil. Market how the big boys market. No one has to know you're as small as you are. As long as you fill your orders, and promote the mission of your company, who's to say you can't have an awesome brand up there with black cat from intelligentsia. Find an awesome barista and get him/her to use one of your espresso roasts in competition. Those are just a few ideas from an associate in specialized business, management, marketing, graduating fall 2010

P.S I am currently thinking of opening my own roasting works, or partnering with a like minded self motivated individual, and foremost seek an internship the summer 2010
John,
Thanks for your idea and encouragement! I think I have well sourced coffee, my roasting skills are adequate and improving and I charge enough. The biggest thing is that the bar seems to be set so low in Northern Wisconsin. Even people who own coffee shops here think coffee is just coffee and good enough is adequate. They are not passionate about their coffee. In fact I don't know if most of them really like coffee that much! My goal is as a roaster is to offer coffee that is stunning and people will drive across town to get. Most of these business owners seem to be expending their energy on offering food or wine. They just don't see the value of coffee. Maybe I need to continue to for clients outside of my immediate area to find coffee shops that appreciate the passion I put into my coffee. Joseph

John P said:
It's really about niche marketing, small overhead, and a pricing structure that's in line with your quality. In short - source better, roast better, charge more... and be efficient! Sometimes it's difficult finding operators who care enough to pay for something spectacular, or to adhere to quality principles and guidelines you have in place. I'm sure there are many small roasters with much more experience that will echo much of what I've said. Keep at it. It will pay off.
Phil, Thanks for your help. That is a good way at looking at things. Anyone in business always want things to go faster. Joseph

Phil Proteau said:
Project 16 accounts per 18 month period over the next 10 years. The question isn't "how can I grow more", but rather "how can you keep up with that much growth".

I totally feel this. How do you make people crazy about quality coffee?

Joseph Zimmermann said:

John,
Thanks for your idea and encouragement! I think I have well sourced coffee, my roasting skills are adequate and improving and I charge enough. The biggest thing is that the bar seems to be set so low in Northern Wisconsin. Even people who own coffee shops here think coffee is just coffee and good enough is adequate. They are not passionate about their coffee. In fact I don't know if most of them really like coffee that much! My goal is as a roaster is to offer coffee that is stunning and people will drive across town to get. Most of these business owners seem to be expending their energy on offering food or wine. They just don't see the value of coffee. Maybe I need to continue to for clients outside of my immediate area to find coffee shops that appreciate the passion I put into my coffee. Joseph

John P said:
It's really about niche marketing, small overhead, and a pricing structure that's in line with your quality. In short - source better, roast better, charge more... and be efficient! Sometimes it's difficult finding operators who care enough to pay for something spectacular, or to adhere to quality principles and guidelines you have in place. I'm sure there are many small roasters with much more experience that will echo much of what I've said. Keep at it. It will pay off.

Daniel,

At some level, ownership and management have to care.

One way to approach it is through a straight business approach. Show them how they can make more money using quality coffee. You can cover the difference between $6 and $12 per pound with less than 10 cents a cup more, but the quality of coffee may be something you can charge 50 cents more per cup. And if they can be swayed to a by the cup brewing model (press, pour over, siphon, Chemex...) and you can train them, there can be as much as a $2 to $8 more per cup.

It always helps if they can taste the difference.

One important fact that I do not believe has been mentioned is the fact that most large commercial roasters provide equipment, many times for free as long as they purchase a minimum quantity of coffee weekly or monthly. This is a tough obstacle to get around when you realize most business owners are already under capitalized and rely on free equipment to get started.

 

Nick

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